John Howell, Director


Welcome to our home page. Please feel free to look around. Up-to-date group photos will be found below.

This will link you to two pictures which may (or may not) be of Orlando di Lasso jamming with some of the boys in the band. The question is whether the keyboard instrument is a clavichord or a virginals. What do you think?

--Prof. John R. Howell


For ensemble members:

Rehearsal Call Board
Important Dates

Puzzler: What composer's name is spelled out in this acrostic?


The Singers
The Players
The Music
The Instruments
The Dancers
Additional Information

Concert Schedule
How Can I Join?
Rehearsal Schedule
Links to other Early Music Sites
Latin Pronunciation



The Early Music Ensemble, 2000-2001

The Early Music Ensemble was founded in 1996 as the outgrowth of a program of class and studio instruction in early instruments and informal recorder and vocal/instrumental ensembles. It is open to students with a special interest in studying and performing the music and the instruments of the Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque periods. This repertoire is approached as chamber music, with no more than one or two on a part, and the music is selected each semester to fit the particular talents of the participants. Previous experience with early instruments or early music performance is a definite plus, but is not a requirement. Auditions are quite informal and intended to encourage participation at an appropriate skill level.

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"My Earl of Oxenford's March," Thomas Morley, "Consort Lessons"

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Bach on panpipes!

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The Singers explore a variety of vocal and vocal-instrumental chamber music as soloists and in small ensembles selected for each piece. Original languages are used. In fact the intimate relationship between poetry and music is often one of the most interesting parts of studying a new piece. The repertoire might include everything from Gregorian chant and 11th century organum to madrigals and chansons from the high courts of Europe or the cries of street vendors in early 17th century London. Several singers also double on instruments. All voice parts are used, including male alto (countertenor).


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The Players represent the variety of instrumental ensembles and instruments typical of early chamber music. Harpsichord, small organ, and lute or classical guitar are joined by recorders, early flutes, violin and viola da gamba, and some of the louder instruments like shawm, krumhorn, cornetto, and sackbutt. Pictured is a quartet of recorder players using Renaissance bore instruments. Anything from Medieval or Renaissance dance music to formal Baroque salon music is possible, and a variety of styles and instrumentations is used. Keyboard, string, woodwind, brass, and percussion players can be used, and there are opportunities to learn skills on the historical versions of players' modern instruments.


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Chamber Music, whether vocal, instrumental or combined, represents the middle ground between music for soloists and music for large ensembles with many people on each part. Pictured are singers and instrumentalists exploring the music from the 13th century Carmina Burana manuscript. In another room an instrumental ensemble might be recreating music for flute and recorders written by Georg Philipp Telemann or Jean-Baptiste Lully for the entertainment of royalty.


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The Dancers

In April, 1998, the Early Music Ensemble added Renaissance dances and dancers to its programs for the first time. Singers and Players from the ensemble, along with other volunteers from the Virginia Tech Chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism, performed authentic choreography, recreated by Susan Taylor Howell, to the sound of authentic instruments playing authentic Renaissance dance music. Howell staged and choreographed the Madrigal Dinners presented at Indiana University by the Pro Arte Ensemble for a number of years, and has given workshops in Renaissance dance at several universities. A merry time was had by all, and future concerts may continue this new tradition.


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The Instruments used by the Early Music Ensemble are as authentic as possible, and are used to create historically-informed performances. Pictured is a trio sonata using alto recorder, oboe, cello and harpsichord.


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Questions about this web page? Contact Prof. John R. Howell.